Iceland’s Grimsvotn Volcano Erupts

UPDATE: 25 May 20011. I’ve added this Seismic Tremor map from the Iceland Met Office site:

Iceland Seismic Tremor 24 May 2011 grf_trem

Iceland Seismic Tremor 24 May 2011 grf_trem

And here is a live version:

Live seismic tremor map

Live seismic tremor map

from the Iceland MET update page here:

Original Article Follows

Quakes Iceland 22 May 2011

Quakes Iceland 22 May 2011

The green stars are quakes over 3.0 magnetude. The colors of the circles are age, with red being 0 to 4 hours, orange 4 to 12, yellow 12 to 24.

Grimsvotn is one of the red triangles in the middle of the island:

Volcanic System of Iceland

Volcanic System of Iceland

Original Image

In many ways I like this graph better. It has size vertical and time horizontal. You can see how they have clustered in time better, IMHO.

Quakes Iceland Size by age 22 May 2011

Quakes Iceland Size by age 22 May 2011

Well, right on schedule, the Cumulative Seismic Moment at Grimsvotn went vertical and it has started an erruption:

Grimsvoten Cumulative Seismic Moment

Grimsvoten Cumulative Seismic Moment

Original Image

That is the live chart. I’ve captured a copy of it as of now so I can put in a static image at some point (when this graph resets to something less interesting).

This is from the Iceland Met Office. Main page: English or Icelandic (At least, it looks like Icelandic to me..)

From their English pages, they have this report on the volcano:

Eruption has started in Grímsvötn

An eruption began at Grímsvötn volcano at approximately 17:30 UTC, May 21st 2011.

Eruptions in Grímsvötn start as subglacial eruptions, which quickly break the ice cover. At 21:00 UTC, the eruption plume had risen to an altitude of over 65,000 ft (~20 km). Initially, the plume is expected to drift to the east and subsequently to the north. Thus, the ash is not expected to impact aviation in Europe, at least not during the first 24 hours.

The figure on the right (above) shows an image of the eruption cloud at 22:00 UTC. The image is from the Icelandic Met Office weather radar located at Keflavik International Airport, at 220 km distance from the volcano. The cloud extends above a large part of Vatnajökull ice cap. The line marks the approximate location of Grímsvötn volcano.

The last eruption in Grímsvötn occurred in November 2004. Grímsvötn is Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano.

The figure below shows tremor activity in Grímsvötn associated with the eruption. Note that seismic activity increases after 17:30 UTC.

So I make that about 15 hours ago as I type this.

A h/t to MarkinAustin for watching the Grimsvotn graph and giving a holler when the eruption happened.

Here is a video of the volcano:

Also, a note from Investors Business Daily:

Posted 06:05 PM ET

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, May 21, 2011 (UPI via COMTEX) — Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano began erupting Saturday, billowing smoke and shaking the ground, the country’s Meteorological Office said.
The volcano last erupted in 2004. Scientist told the British newspaper this eruption is expected to be small and likely will not cause anything similar to the travel chaos Europeans experienced during the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010.

I’d put that “expected to be small” in the “happy talk” bucket. They can hope, but only the volcano knows what it will do.

At any rate, it’s blowing and hasn’t stopped yet (per the Iceland MET site graph).

Some Volcano Stuff

This page: has a nice collection of links to volcano monitor pages. Just click the pictures for the different volcano observatories.

The Smithsonian page (this updates on Wednesdays, so has nothing yet):

Europe Hemispheric View

Europe Hemispheric View

Europe with “clickable” areas for more details.

Southern Hemisphere

A view of Earthquakes from the South Pole

A view of Earthquakes from the South Pole

Original Image with Clickable Details

Northern Hemisphere

North Polar Earthquake Map

North Polar Earthquake Map

Original Image with Clickable Details

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Earth Sciences, Emergency Preparation and Risks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Iceland’s Grimsvotn Volcano Erupts

  1. R. de Haan says:

    The latest Volcano Weekly must have been the busiest I have seen in many years.

  2. R. de Haan says:

    This is the biggest eruption over the past 100 years.
    Observed eruptions have lasted from a few day’s up to three weeks.
    Sufficient time to create havoc over the Atlantic and European air space.

  3. R. de Haan says:

    The track record of this volcano is that eruptions during the past century have lasted between a few day’s up to three weeks but if we go further back into time we have this information:

    “Grímsvötn has a southwest-northeast-trending fissure system, and the massive climate-impacting Laki fissure eruption of 1783-1784 was a part of the same fissure system. Grímsvötn was erupting at the same time as Laki during 1783, but continued to erupt until 1785. Because most of the volcano lies underneath Vatnajökull, most of its eruptions have been subglacial”.

    From wikipedia:ötn

  4. R. de Haan says:

    Latest ash advisory Met Office:

  5. Jeff Alberts says:

    At least this one is easier to pronounce 8^)

  6. R. de Haan says:

    @ Jeff Alberts: Eyjafjallajökull volcano but my friends call me Eyja.

    As for GRÍMSVÖTN, call me Grim.

    Icelandic really is an impossible language.

    More info about the ash cloud and closed airports here:

  7. vukcevic says:

    Eyjaf jalla jokull = Island’s (Iceland’s) mountain eruption
    google translator

  8. Level_Head says:

    @E.M. Smith,

    Speaking of misfires, it appears that the Grím Sleeper seems to be calming down a bit. The plume is reputed to have been the tallest since 1947, but I expect that this was powered largely by water-steam.

    There will be other opportunities for Iceland to rest its volcanic footprint on the world’s economy, but this time it seems likely to be mostly local. That can be bad enough for them, of course.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jeff Alberts:

    It’s not so hard if you just ignore most of the letters:

    I ya fa ya la yo kul more or less…


    Well, you never know with one of these things until it’s given it’s final burp…

  10. R. de Haan says:

    Grimsvötn Volcano, Iceland
    Keflavík airport in Iceland has been closed due to the eruption of Grímsvötn volcano. Ashfall surrounding the volcano has already reached a thickness of half a centimetre. This is the largest eruption at Grímsvotn volcano in 100 years and larger than the one in Eyjafjallajökull last year. It is similar to the eruption of 1873 at Grímsvotn. A large glacial flood (Jokulhlaup) is not expected. This morning ash emissions reached a height of 15 to 18 kilometres, which is ten times more powerful than the last eruption in Grímsvötn in 2004.

  11. Keith Hill says:

    Your wide-ranging blog once again demonstrates why it has been an absolute joy to me. You have expanded my horizons exponentially, educated me and by providing so many interesting links to follow, inspired me to self-educate further.

    I have been following the Grimsvotn link with great interest since you first posted it and noted only yesterday that if the Ielandic methodology was correct the eruption would be any day now. Sure enough, I woke this morning to the news of “thar she blows”! Brilliant!

    The good news seems to be that it’s expected to quieten down quickly and because the ash is of courser composition it will fall sooner and not cause the same disruption as the finer-ashed Eyjafjallajokull last year.

  12. Keith Hill says:

    BTW. Whilst in the arctic area check out this link for some very interesting information and graphs on:-

    Arctic Cycles – Related to AMO/PDO. Not CO2

    Thanks to ICECAP .

  13. Ruhroh says:


    Even though I followed your graphs for long enough to know GV was getting really close, I put my wife and daughter on a plane Saturday nite for London.

    They made it there OK, and maybe will stay longer than they planned…

    Always pay attention to Cheifio…

  14. Interesting Connections says:

    CZ75 or CZ85?

    It has lots of parts compared with the Glock. Seems similar to my Ruger 95.

  15. George says:


  16. Keith Hill says:

    Sorry. the appinsys link on Arctic Cycles in my post above doesn’t seem to work. Access it through the ICECAP link as it’s current (May 21) and very worthwhile.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Interesting Connection:

    I don’t think either is very much use against a volcano…

    My solution was a Cz-75 for the right hand and a Cz-85 for the left. (The only difference is the ambidextrous safety ojn the Cz-85, so if you don’t need ‘left hand use” you don’t need it…)

    There is more to perfection than parts count…

    @Keith Hill and Ruhroh:

    It was the Iceland Met Office that made the graph in the first place. I just noticed it… (and found it interesting…)

    But thanks for the “vote” anyhoo!

    In my opinion, this is just the start. It will take 20 years to reach full scope, but things are, IMHO, going to be doing the usual “ramp” seen in “major minima”…


    Icelandic is not as hard as you think. I got a book / tape on it once. It’s basically old Norwegian. A couple of more case endings. Some older word and word forms. The biggest PITA is the orthography. Why so many letters that seem to do nothing?

    At any rate, any Germanic Language speaker ought to be able to learn it rapidly, especially Scandinavian language speakers. Just don’t try to pronounce all the letters….

  18. M.J. says:

    I’ve never been around a volcano so your information about this is so interesting. I never did know that there are earthquakes before the eruption. It reminds me about the earthquake simulator that is at the Navy base in San Diego. I see on your illustration the green stars for the 3.0 and over quakes. There appears to be considerable movement prior the the eruption. Good luck to everyone in the area.

  19. R. de Haan says:

    “Icelandic is not as hard as you think… Just don’t try to pronounce all the letters….”

    Very funny.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    Wow! That Cumulative Seismic Moment line is just one vertical climb at the eruption point.

    I’ve added an update at the top with a Seismic Tremor chart for the event and a live link.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    30 May 2011 – 15:00

    Collective status report (pdf 20 Kb) of the Institute of the Earth Sciences and of the Icelandic Meteorological office was published at 14:00.

    Saturday morning at 6:30 UTC the volcanic tremor on Grímsfjall (Grímsvötn) rapidly decreased and had disappeared at 7 UTC. Since Thursday the tremor had been intermittent. Today, Monday 30 May, it has been confirmed by the participants of Iceland Glaciological Society’s spring expedition that the eruption has ended.

    The end of the Grímsvötn eruption is set to 7 UTC Saturday morning 28 May 2011.

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